Today, companies are taking a hard look at their customer journey optimization, realizing that they cannot remain competitive in a tightening market without understanding their consumer journey. However, too often, the role of product data is neglected in this process.

The Role of Product Data in the Consumer Journey

At the core of any consumer journey is the data that feeds the experience. Without properly managed product data, the entire customer journey is compromised.

The problem is that for many businesses, the management of product data is either deprioritized or misunderstood.

For companies looking to improve their consumer journey, this guide will take a deep dive into the vital role product data plays, with key insights into how businesses can better manage this critical data set.

Bottleneck for Growth

During the past year, two key shifts in commerce have taken place.

First, according to a global survey by UNCTAD and Netcomm Suisse eCommerce Association, average online monthly spending per shopper has dropped significantly, with consumers postponing larger expenditures and shifting to a focus on essential products. Of the categories of commerce explored, tourism and travel took the hardest hit, with average spending down 75%.

Secondly, the same survey showed that online purchases have increased by 6 to 10 percentage points across most product categories.

This means that companies have had to figure out a way to retain sales and meet the new demand for eCommerce to remain profitable during the pandemic.

However, in this process, many businesses have been stifled by a significant bottleneck for growth — an ineffective strategy for managing product information.

In many cases, companies lack the right tools and systems for managing this data, leading to inefficiencies and an inability to optimize the consumer journey.

Inefficient and Ineffective Tools

When brick-and-mortar stores were first moving into eCommerce, the biggest challenge was converting all of their printed catalogs into digital data. That challenge has only grown over time, with consumers expecting to locate products from any platform, whether on your site, Amazon, Facebook Marketplace, or via a Google product search.

Adding to the complexity is that each of these channels has its own product data requirements, creating an even heftier workload for those trying to manage this data.

Historically, teams have relied on Excel as their primary product data management tool. In fact, 94% of organizations still use Excel for managing product information.

Unfortunately, while Excel is a powerful tool in many scenarios, it is not ideal for creating an excellent product experience across all channels.

A Small Window of Opportunity

Customer journey optimization starts and ends with product data. On average, your product page holds a consumers’ attention for all of 15 seconds.

This small window of opportunity is your one chance at convincing a consumer to purchase your product.

That is why understanding your consumer journey is critical to success in today’s highly competitive market.

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Understanding the Consumer Journey and The Role of Product Information

To understand how to better optimize your consumer’s journey, you must take a walk in their shoes. In this case, we will walk through three key touchpoints during the customer’s journey, with a keen focus on the role of product information in each stage.

  1. Find: Your consumer has an interest in a particular product and wants to learn a little more.
  2. Research: At this stage, your consumer has built a desire for a product and is now focusing on the details.
  3. Decide: Finally, this is the point at which your consumer is almost ready to close but has a few final concerns or hangups.

Let’s take a deeper look into these three critical arenas where your product data reigns king.

1. Find

Your consumer is likely asking themselves several questions:

  • What is this?
  • Where can I get it?
  • How much does it cost?

At this point, your consumer will probably pull out their phone, type the product into a search bar, and start finding their options.

In fact, according to Retail Dive, 87% of shoppers begin product searches on digital channels. Within digital itself, consumers navigate across a myriad of channels. All of the following are locations where your consumers are hunting for information during the finding stage:

  • Search engines
  • Websites
  • Apps
  • Ads
  • Social media
  • Email
  • Chat
  • Video calls with friends
  • Video streams

During this stage of the consumer journey, product information is critical. At this point, most consumers are looking for technical data on the product. This is where accurate naming, pricing, dimensions, materials, and other specifications will play a huge role in whether or not your product is even found.

Unfortunately, for companies reliant upon hundreds of spreadsheets, upkeep of all this data can be difficult. This is particularly true when trying to reach your consumers across multiple channels, as each channel will have different data requirements.

2. Research

After the initial finding stage, consumers begin to dig deeper into research before making a final purchasing decision.

In the digital world, where products cannot be physically touched and experienced, the only method left for convincing a consumer to purchase your product is through the product data you present to them.

During the research stage, consumers want to quickly understand if the product they are looking at will do what they want it to do or meet the need they are looking to solve.

For example, if your consumer is looking to purchase a new laptop, they will want to know all of the following about the product:

  • How does it look?
  • How does it work?
  • What are the specs?

Additionally, consumers today are looking for a visual representation of the product that they can interact with, almost as if they were able to touch and feel the product. This is why detailed photos, 360 rotations of products, and other visual cues are critical during the research stage.

During research, consumers will be comparing your product against others on the market. Your product data will play a vital role in whether or not your product is chosen. Even the best product, if lacking the right data, can end up being passed over.

It is worth noting that this is true for both B2C and B2B sectors, with over 45% of B2B buyers being digital natives who demand a strong product experience.

3. Decide

Finally, the last stage in the consumer journey is deciding whether or not to purchase your product.

At this point, your consumer has searched and found your product. They have researched the details of the product to see if it’s a good match. Now, emotion comes into play.

For this reason, elite brands and retailers will invest as much time in emotional information as they do with technical and usage data.

You are not just selling a product. You are selling the experience and the desire to connect with your brand.

During the decision stage, your product information’s focus should be on minimizing distraction and ensuring that consumers associate a positive feeling with your product.

Think about it from the perspective of traditional brick-and-mortar retail. Every store owner understands the importance of keeping the floors clean, shelves neatly organized, light bulbs working, and creating an ambiance in the building that encourages consumers to stick around and make a purchase.

For the digital world, this translates to polishing your product data. Make sure that product photos are high-quality. Ensure that there are no typos or poor translations in your copy. Double-check that any links to manuals or product specs are working. Display the right information to the right audience, e.g., inches for an American audience versus millimeters for a European consumer.

During the decision stage, it is not just about providing product information. It is about delivering relevant, meaningful, and trustworthy information.

It is about the added touch, creating true engagement with your brand. This is where high-quality lifestyle footage or customer testimonials can play a critical role in optimizing the customer journey.

Harnessing the Power of Product Data Today with a PIM Solution

Undoubtedly, your business has a large amount of product data to manage. From the above walkthrough of the consumer journey, it is easy to see how critical it is to manage that data well.

Unfortunately, with the vast number of channels where consumers will access information about your products, juggling spreadsheets is not enough.

This is where the right tool can unlock an incredible amount of power behind your product data and set your company apart in even the most competitive markets.

At Vaimo, we assist clients in implementing a Product Information Management (PIM) solution. PIM solutions are information management systems. They store and manage your product data, allowing you to plug this data into any channel you wish.

The beauty of a PIM solution is that you can manage all your product data in one centralized location. Here you can edit, remove, change, and sync product data across multiple channels.

This is not only more efficient, but it guards your business against displaying inaccurate product information to consumers.

With today’s consumers becoming increasingly picky about the product data surfaced to them through search, managing your product data strategically is critical to your future success.

Talk to our team at Vaimo today about how the right PIM solution can help you optimize your consumer journey.

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